Tuesday Poem: The Translator

Shutting out the torment and the fear
deep into the night’s cold morning hours
I work on my translation.

Improbable, that in another tongue
such lines as these were born,
set down, are vivid on his page

and will not come across to mine.
Two ways to go: the forced rhyme
the flaccid filling phrase

or terse, unrhymed,
trying to capture the meaning
as if that could ever be known.

But something does translate —
a voice from bleak immensities
perfect for nights like these:

the wind’s forgotten murmur,
the war that beggars language
speaking the creole of slaughter.

Credit note: First published in New Zealand Books (December 2004), included in Best New Zealand Poems 2004, and then collected in All Blacks Kitchen Gardens.

Tim says: I have had something of a translation theme going with the Tuesday Poems on my blog recently, one way or another, and furthermore Best New Zealand Poems 2010 has just been launched – congratulations to all those who’ve had work selected! – so I though I would post my poem “The Translator”, which appeared in BNZP 2004. At that time, I also supplied an exuberant set of notes on the poem.

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog – the featured poem is on the centre of the page, and the week’s other poems are linked from the right-hand column.